Telefónica wants to launch the first 5G roaming connection for space

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Sateliot has teamed up with Telefónica to extend the reach of 5G networks into space.

In a press release, the two companies stated this is a “first” in telecommunications history.

Detailing the achievement, the two companies said they recently ran a test in which they extended the coverage of Telefónica’s terrestrial 5G network through standard GSMA roaming, using Sateliot’s satellite network. The test was overseen by the European Space Agency (ESA).

Store & Forward

During the test, the team used a regular SIM card, plugged into an Internet of Things (IoT) device. That device managed to “seamlessly” switch to Sateliot’s network of low-Earth orbit (LEO) satellites, making the trial a success. 

The conclusion of the test is that a standard roaming connection can be authenticated using Telefónica’s core network even when it’s going through a non-terrestrial network. An important cog in this machine comes in the form of “Store & Forward”, Sateliot’s proprietary two-step authentication process that stores data when the satellite is not in position to connect with a ground station, and then releases it when it is.

“Sateliot has achieved an important milestone by successfully demonstrating the integration of Low-Earth orbit and NTN (Non-Terrestrial Network) with roaming capabilities in Store&Forward mode, along with two-step authentication into a 5G cellular network,” said Antonio Franchi, Head of Space for 5G and 6G Strategic Programme at the ESA. 

Telefónica announced the solution will be offered commercially next year, providing ‘everywhere-in-the-planet connectivity’ for IoT devices. 

The telecommunications firm wants to be the first mobile network operator offering narrowband IoT connectivity around the globe.

“This is the culmination of years of studies and developments of our Store & Forward two-step authentication procedure that gives Sateliot a unique position to establish roaming extension for NB-IoT NTN delay tolerant applications. We are in front of a game changer in future 3GPP networks that will reduce costs based on low density constellations and reduced ground segment infrastructure, minimizing the impact in space and reducing time to market,” said Sateliot’s chief technology officer Marco Guadalupi. 

Sead Fadilpašić

Sead is a seasoned freelance journalist based in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. He writes about IT (cloud, IoT, 5G, VPN) and cybersecurity (ransomware, data breaches, laws and regulations). In his career, spanning more than a decade, he’s written for numerous media outlets, including Al Jazeera Balkans. He’s also held several modules on content writing for Represent Communications.